Yesterday’s ‘breaking news’ from the hunger strike outside Portugal’s parliamentary building was that celebrity chef and figurehead of the ‘Bread & Water movement’ Ljubomir Stanisic was ‘showing signs of ceding to weakness’ and been taken to hospital.
His blood-sugar levels had taken a dive, leaving the 42-year-old suddenly very vulnerable after making a speech to a crowd of supporters.
If PS Socialists thought this protest could be ‘ignored away’, they may not have taken into account the determination of these people, led by a man whose early years were spent fighting as a ‘child-soldier’ in the Bosnian war.
Ljubomir Stanisic was back in the camp opposite the steps of the Assembleia da República before 11pm, re-joining his eight exhausted colleagues for another grim night under canvas.
As he told supporters before his collapse: “I am here for the 20 employees who cannot renew their contracts, for the 60 whose wages I don’t know how I am going to pay, for my children and for the future of this country…”
The government’s decision not to meet protestors is beginning to look more and more ‘dysfunctional’.
Various other political parties have managed to visit the group – and tried to persuade PS powermakers to do the same.
Prime minister Costa’s contention that it’s just “not possible” for everyone “who is suffering” to try and resolve it “with a protest demanding to speak with the prime minister or president of the republic”.
But of course commentators over social media say this is precisely what politicians are there for: to listen to the people. The government’s ‘lofty position’ is being seen as a sign that it has forgotten where its loyalties should lie.
Certainly Mr Costa is known as a political streetfighter. But he may have met his match in a survivor from horrific years of ethnic cleansing.
With the stand-off continuing today, a petition raised by the Bread & Water movement (on the national petição pública site click here) has already raised over 72,000 signatures, calling for the prime minister and/ or economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira to get off their high horses and ‘meet protestors’ once and for all.
The petition outlines protestors’ ‘case’ that measures brought in to combat the pandemic have led to the almost total destruction of sectors that used to be at the forefront of the national economy – not only employing hundreds of thousands of people, but serving tourism and flying the flag of Portuguese hospitality,
Says the movement, without urgent solutions “many of us who haven’t already closed will be forced to shut our doors and let go of personnel”.